Luke 2




The Birth of Jesus (2:1-20)

1  Caesar9 Augustus was the emperor of the Roman Empire from 31 B.C. to 14 A.D. The capital of the Roman Empire was Rome (now the capital of modern Italy). In New Testament times, the Romans had conquered almost all of the countries around the Mediterranean Sea. Their authority had even reached to France and England. Thus the Roman Empire extended across almost all of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. Among the conquered countries were Israel and Syria.

Augustus had recently reorganized the administration of these conquered countries and provinces, and he had ordered that a new census be taken.

2 This census began in about 4 B.C., which is the date of Jesus’ birth (see Matthew 2:1 and comment). The census was completed while Quirinius was governor of Syria, which was in 6-9 A.D.10

3-4 According to the emperor’s decree, everyone had to register for the census in his own town. Joseph, Mary’s betrothed husband, was a descendant of David (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:27). David had been born in Bethlehem a thousand years previously. So all David’s descendants were required to register in Bethlehem, which was a small town six miles south of Jerusalem.

In this way, the prophecy of Micah that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem was fulfilled (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:4-6).

5-7 At the time they went to Bethlehem, Joseph had not yet slept with Mary, his betrothed wife (Matthew 1:24-25). Luke says that Mary was pledged to be married (verse 5). That is, she was legally married, but was still living as if only pledged to be married.

After arriving in Bethlehem, Mary gave birth to Jesus. Because there was no room in the inn, Mary and the baby stayed in a manger. Such was the humble birth of the Son of God!

8-12 The announcement of Jesus’ birth was given first to ordinary humble people—shepherds. “I bring you good news of great joy,” the angels said to them (verse 10). That good news was the Gospel of Christ, the good news of salvation. The good news was for all the people—that is, initially, for all the people of Israel, the Jews. But it was also good news for the Gentiles, the non-Jews (verses 30-32). Salvation is for all people—both Jews and Gentiles—who receive the good news and believe in Christ (John 3:16).

In this way the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end (Isaiah 9:6-7).

13-15 A great company of the heavenly host—thatis,otherangels—appearedtothe shepherds, praising God. As soon as the angels had left, the shepherds, filled with amazement and excitement, went to find the Savior.

16-20 The shepherds found Jesus just where the angels had said. The shepherds told everyone about how the angels had appeared to them and had told them about the birth of the Savior, the Messiah. And Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart (verse 19). And surely, years later, Mary told some of these things to Jesus’ followers. Perhaps Mary even told Luke himself, and Luke then used what she said to write this chapter of his Gospel.


Jesus Presented in the Temple (2:21-38)

21 When Christ was eight days old he was circumcised and given the name Jesus, as commanded by the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:31). Though He was the Son of God, He submitted to the Jewish law, so that He might fulfill the law perfectly, and thus fulfill all righteousness (Matthew 3:15; 5:17; Galatians 4:4).

22-24 Forty days after Jesus’ birth, Mary and Joseph went to Jerusalem.11 They went for two reasons. First, they went to the temple to present Jesus to the Lord (verse 22). According to the LAW of the Lord (the Jewish law), all firstborn offspring, both human and animal, were considered to be consecrated to God (verse 23). The firstborn of “clean” animals were sacrificed, that is, offered to God. The firstborn of humans were not sacrificed; instead, they had to be redeemed by a payment of money when they were a month old (Exodus 13:2,12-13; Numbers 18:15-16).

The second reason Mary and Joseph went to Jerusalem was to offer the sacrifice of purification (verse 24). According to Jewish law, a mother and her male offspring were considered “unclean” for a period of forty days after the child’s birth. At that time a sacrifice had to be offered in order for the mother and child to be purified. For poor people, the sacrifice to be offered was a pair of doves or two young pigeons (Leviticus 12:1-8).

25 Luke describes another sign that Jesus was indeed the Savior, the Messiah of Israel. He mentions a man called Simeon, who had been waiting for the consolation, that is, the salvation of Israel. In other words, he had been waiting to see the Lord’s Christ, that is, God’s Christ,12 the Messiah, who was coming to save His people.

26-28 The Holy Spirit had told Simeon that he would get to see Christ before he died. Therefore, when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus into the temple, Simeon, led by the Holy Spirit, recognized the baby Jesus at once and took Him in his arms.

29-32 Then Simeon praised God. He could now die in peace, because he had seen the salvation that God had promised, the salvation not only of Israel, but of the GENTILES also—the salvation of the entire world (Psalm 98:2-3; Isaiah 49:6; 52:10).

33 Even though the angel had told Mary and Joseph that their son Jesus was the Savior, the Son of God, they were still amazed at Simeon’s words. Their son would be the Savior not only of Israel, but of the whole world!

34 After blessing Mary, Joseph, and their child, Simeon said, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel.” Those who believe in Christ and accept the salvation He brings will “rise.” Those who reject Him will “fall,” that is, be condemned (see John 3:18,36). Christ is the cornerstone upon which the church, the “new sign that will be spoken againstIsrael,” will rise (see Ephesians 2:1921; 1 Peter 2:6 and comments). But that same stone, if rejected, will become a stone by which men fall (see Matthew 21:44; 1 Peter 2:7-8 and comment).

Simeon also said that Jesus would be a sign that will be spoken against. Jesus is a sign of judgment. He came the first time to save men, but He will come a second time to judge them (see Matthew 24:30; Mark 13:26; 14:61-62; John 5:22-23 and comments). Jesus came with a sword to separate the righteous from the unrighteous (Matthew 10:34). Jesus is a “sign” which says: “All those who do not place their faith in me and follow me are doomed. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Nevertheless, most of the Jews, the very people Christ came first to save, rejected Him and spoke against Him and, in the end, killed Him. The Jews, the chosen and blessed people of God, lost their blessing, lost their inheritance; they fell. And the blessing passed to the Gentiles who believed and accepted Christ (Matthew 21:43).

35 The coming of Christ into the world would cause the thoughts of many hearts to be revealed. It would then be manifest who had faith and who hadn’t, who were the true servants of God and who were not. It is not outward righteousness that God looks at; it is our attitude toward Christ that is most important. Only those who receive Christ’s righteousness through faith will in the end be considered righteous by God (see Galatians 2:15-16 and comment).

Then Simeon prophesied that Mary’s soul would be pierced by a sword. The “sword” was the murder of her own son. She would watch the leaders of her own nation kill her firstborn son on the CROSS.

36-38 After Simeon had spoken, Anna, a prophetess, also spoke about the child Jesus. She was of the tribe of Asher.13 She spoke to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. Many among the Jews of Jerusalem were indeed waiting for the Messiah, the Savior, to come and bring redemption for Israel. Yet when He did come, most of them did not recognize Him. They did not believe that the Son of God would be born in a manger, the son of a poor carpenter and a village woman.


The Childhood of Jesus (2:39-52)

39 Luke here says that the family of Jesus returned to their own town of Nazareth in the province of Galilee, in northern Israel. But before they returned, they were visited by astrologers from the East, as described in Matthew 2:1-12. Then, in fear of the wicked King Herod, the family fled to Egypt (see Matthew 2:13-23). Only after Herod died did Joseph and Mary return to Nazareth with Jesus.

40 Nothing else is known about Jesus’ early childhood except what is written in verses 40-52. Even though Jesus was the Son of God, He had taken on Himself the form of a man, and was born of a woman. Therefore, like other men, Jesus had to grow and become strong. But from the beginning, He was filled with the wisdom and the grace of His heavenly Father.

41 Jerusalem was the capital of the Jewish nation. It was also the location of the great Jewish temple, the center of worship for all Jews (see Mark 13:1 and comment). Every year thousands of Jews traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of the PASSOVER (see Mark 14:1 and comment). So each year Joseph and Mary also traveled to Jerusalem for this purpose.

42-45 When Jesus was twelve, Joseph and Mary went with Jesus to Jerusalem for the Passover as usual, but when it came time to return home, Jesus did not go with His parents. There were hundreds of Jews who were returning together to Nazareth, and Joseph and Mary assumed that Jesus was in the group but walking with relatives and friends instead of with His parents. But after walking a day, Joseph and Mary discovered that Jesus was not with the group at all. So Joseph and Mary returned to Jerusalem.

46-48 After three days they found Jesus in the temple talking with the teachers of the law. Those who heard Jesus were amazed at His understanding (verse 47). But His parents rebuked Him for giving them such anxiety.

49-50 But Jesus replied, “You should have known where to find me. I have things to do in my Father’s house”—that is, in the temple.

From this we know that Jesus, even in childhood, knew that He was God’s Son, the Messiah. But His parents still didn’t fully understand why their twelve-year-old son had to stay behind in the temple for three days.

51-52 Jesus’ parents insisted that He return home with them, and Luke says that He was obedient to them. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature.

After this, little is known about Jesus until He came to be baptized by John the Baptist about eighteen years later. From Mark 6:3, it seems that Jesus learned to be a carpenter like His father Joseph (Matthew 13:55).